Monday, September 11, 2017

Tommy The Commie

The principal knocked lightly on my door in the middle of a class. When I looked up, he opened it a crack and said, “The superintendent wants see us in his office right after this period.”

It was 1985. I was teaching US History and current events at the old Snow School in Fryeburg, Maine. The superintendent’s office was a short drive down Portland Street near the traffic lights which weren’t there yet. On the way, he told me it was a parent complaint. As we walked through the door, the secretary pointed to the superintendent’s office saying, “Go right in.” 

“Mr. Smith (not his real name) was in here, angry,” he said after we both sat down in front of his desk. “His daughter is in your class, right?”


“He told me you said President Reagan is either a liar of a fool — and he’s pissed. Did you say that?”

“I did, yes.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Well, Reagan said he wouldn’t negotiate with terrorists, but his administration traded weapons for hostages with Iran,” I answered. 

“He said he didn’t know anything about it, but it was happening right under his nose. I can come to only two possible conclusions: either he knew about it and he’s lying, or he should have known about it but didn’t — and that would make him a fool.”

“That’s your opinion?”


“Did you say it was your opinion?”

“I did.”

“I told Mr. Smith he should talk to you about it directly, and come back to me if you two can’t resolve it.”

“I appreciate that.”

“Here’s his number. Give him a call and let me know how you make out.”

“Mr. Smith” was a retired Marine and a large person, bigger than me at least. We sat down and I thanked him for coming in. He squared his shoulders and let me know that he didn’t like my criticism of President Reagan and why. I told him same thing I said to the superintendent. After a prolonged stare, he accepted it as he might accept that a bird had crapped on his windshield. 

It wasn’t the first time I had annoyed a conservative parent. Another complaint came from a local attorney who also had a daughter in my class and had been elected to the school board. He objected to how I portrayed President Reagan’s invasion of Grenada. After covering what happened down there I had told students I agreed with those whose opinion it was that Reagan was trying to distract America’s attention from his disastrous deployment of American troops at the Beirut Airport. More than 200 US Marines had died in a truck bombing there less than a week before the Grenada invasion. We met and discussed particulars of where we disagreed about what motivated the Grenada invasion. Then he suggested that I needed to offer alternative viewpoints when I presented liberal interpretations to students.

That seemed reasonable, so I invited him into class to offer one, and a week or so later he did. He took most of a day in all four of my history classes explaining why Granada was important to shipping lanes leading into the Panama Canal. If the island were led by a communist government, American shipping could be threatened as well as US control of the canal itself. Then we both answered questions from students.

Later in the 1980s sometime I found myself sitting at a lunch counter next to a local heating contractor and oil dealer who also had a daughter in my class. After listening to her describe some of our classroom discussions at their dinner table, he concluded that I taught with a liberal bias. “People call you ‘Tommy the Commie,’” he said with a chuckle. “I’d appreciate it if you could offer the other side once in a while.” I thanked him for his feedback and promised I would try to do so.

Reactions from other conservatives in the community were similar. When they didn’t like the way I was teaching, they confronted me face-to-face with specific objections. We’d discuss issues rationally and with civility. If other conservatives complained about me behind my back, I never heard about it. By the early nineties, after I’d become conservative myself and my column was appearing regularly in local newspapers, many, many more complaints came from parents and other members of the community on the left.

I lost count of those, but I can recall only two that had names attached, and only one liberal parent ever sat down to talk with me. Typically I would hear from the principal that parents objected to a column or a lesson. When I asked who I’d be told they wanted to remain anonymous.

So do most of the leftists who comment on my blog. Come to think of it, so do the leftist thugs in Antifa.

There’s a definite pattern here.


Brian said...

As was brought up before there are tons of comments siding with Tom that go anonymous or have a nickname which still leaves them rather anonymous. Yes, the nazi's foes are often masked, one giving the reason "We cover our face because the Nazis will try to find out who we are. And that is a very bad thing because they harass people," he said. "We're trying to stop them from organizing. ... When they organize, they kill people, they hurt people, they fight people. And we're the ones who are fighting back."

Are there some bad apples in ANTIFA, thugs just using the group as an excuse to riot? Certainly, there are these types everywhere. But all in all, I am all in favor of fighting nazis and racists, even if it gets a little rough.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Mclaughlin has had it pointed out to him before that the quote about not having a heart if you are a 40 year old conservative is NOT a Churchill quote, but comes from France in the 1800's. But hey, facts are just minor details, right? Ignore them if they don't fit your agenda.

Tom McLaughlin said...

No one seems to know where the quote originates. Churchill said it, but some claim he got it from Georges Clemenceau who is said to have gotten it from someone else, etc.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused by the quote anyway. Do you want to prove, instead, that liberals of any age can be smart? That conservatives of any age can be compassionate? Or that political generalizations are dumb? All three are true, really.

Anyway, even if you grant that Winston Churchill really said that, "liberal" and "conservative" mean very different things to an American in 2009 than to a Briton in the 1940s or whenever it is one supposes that remark to have been made. I don't think Sir Winston would have been impressed by much of the conservative wing of modern American politics.

Clarence J Johnson said...

Sadly, the point is missed again. Instead, change the argument to some random detail. I'm surprised that Brian didn't cite your lack of attribution regarding R. Lee Ermey's photo.
Ha, ha...keep up the great work!

Uber_Fritz said...


I certainly do not mind using my name. And, as we've discussed previously, I was a former teacher who retired from North Attleboro Public Schools in North Attleboro, MA. In fact, I spent most of my career at North Attleboro High School. I served in the capacity of health teacher and did a stint as the health coordinator. Thus, simply because of the subject matter, there is not much room for disagreement or is there?

Well, I was present when HIV and the resulting, AIDS, became a concern. I must say, that for the most part, the school committee exercised wisdom and determined that an HIV/AIDS curriculum should be taught based on the premise of disease prevention. So, I understood that the goal was to teach the subject matter from a disease prevention perspective and that would keep the material relatively innocuous. And here is the slightly askew parallel from your story. Because I was assigned to teach this material, there were some in the community who immediately labeled me as perverted, because only a pervert would teach such material. So, then what transpired?

Certain school committee members actually tried to dictate what specific words I should use. One school committee member made certain that her child was exempt from the class. Now that's a fine example to set for the community.

Considering the long game, HIV/AIDS was eventually adopted into the health curriculum and any objections had long since passed. Face it, Tom, despite the evidence you collected, people didn't like what they heard. They didn't want a teacher who could actually think; they wanted a robot. By the way, Albert Einstein suffered in much the same way!

Brian said...

Tom makes the claim that in his experience leftists are more apt to be anonymous and hide behind masks (KKK notwithstanding) than conservatives. The thing is, how are we to trust him on this when it comes from somebody who made an outright lie trying to pretend one of the "nickname anonymous" posters here was his former student. It's tough when a columnist loses all credibility.

Carlton said...

Here is a great example of cowardly anonymous right wingers working on a grand scale:

Exposing The Anonymous Right-Wing Billionaires Behind Campus Hate
March 31, 2017

A handful of largely anonymous right-wing billionaires are using shady funding mechanisms to spark hate on college campuses—but, armed with the facts, campus activists can fight back to expose them.

College campuses have long served as unique places for the free exchange of ideas, but increasingly they’ve also become playgrounds for ideologically driven billionaires and the dark-money groups they fund. These groups range across the ideological spectrum from mainstream conservatism to so-called “alt-right” and far-right extremism to unadulterated hate, but they have one thing in common: They’re all funded by the same handful of purposefully anonymous donors.

These groups often use DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund—anonymous funding mechanisms that pool billions from wealthy individuals and then donate the money to right-wing causes while avoiding creating any public connection back to the donors. This echo chamber may hide behind the noble ideas of free speech or individual rights, but the reality is that it’s creating a friendly environment for hateful ideas to spread—and it’s putting students in danger.

neal said...

I have known a Grand Dragon of the KKK. I have known real Nazis. I have known real Stasi. And the Maoists.

All I know is that we are children of something. All I know is that there is one thread. Change the facts, change the times, kill anyone that disagrees.

I survived some purges back in the day. I suspect the kids are not buying what is being demanded. Taking sides, with opinions.
Great. Zealots and bosses. Same as before.

Anonymous said...

neal, by any chance to you happen to be a good friend of the Captain?

Steve said...

Were you ever writing your column as a liberal, or have you only been writing it as as a conservative? It so, it seems unfair to compare the two equally, because your column is going to reach a lot much wider adult audience than you classroom.

Tom McLaughlin said...

"Were you ever writing your column as a liberal?"

Yes, for a couple of years, then I was in transition. I've been fully conservative now for about twenty years or more.

Brian said...

Besides trying to make the case that leftists tend to be more anonymous than conservatives, Tom also likes to pretend that they are also more "sensitive" and easily offended, which makes the following especially hilarious.

The unqualified, Big Oil pawn Scott Pruitt made the ludicrous statement that discussing climate change after the hurricanes is "insensitive"!! You can't make this stuff up! That is like claiming that it is insensitive to talk about gun control after a classroom of kindergarteners get mowed down by a semi-automatic.

Brian said...

Yet another example of anonymous supremacist propaganda.

Flyers heavy on Nazi-era imagery stating things like “Look around, White man.” “Take Your Country Back!” and “Imagine a Muslim-Free America.” were posted around Perdue by a faceless, nameless, cowardly group.

Tom McLaughlin said...

"...were posted around Perdue by a faceless, nameless, cowardly group."

Perhaps. Or they might have been posted by leftists under false flag. Lots of fake "hate crimes" being perpetrated by LGBT... groups, Muslims, blacks, etc. They're too numerous to mention.

Let's see what develops.

Brian said...

Oh, good one Tom! I guess I could say back to you that Antifa is really a bunch of alt-righters who are trying to give a bad name to leftists. That is just as plausible. And yes, of course there are practically no hate crimes in the US, all faked, going back to the days of civil rights fighters hanging blacks from trees to give the KKK a bad name. Oh, and Tom....all those "anonymous" leftists that complained about you? They were all really conservatives trying to get you to hate liberals even more.

Yeah, I could make all those conspiracy claims too. That is if I wanted to look like a foolish dolt. Get real, you are making yourself look like an even bigger clown.

Anonymous said...

Tom, release yourself from the Breitbart, Faux News "alternate facts" bubble in which the alt-right NEVER does anything wrong.

Let the fresh wave of reality wash over you! Give up your misguided hatred and your love of tell-me-what-I-want-to-hear "facts". You will find it quite liberating.

Tom McLaughlin said...

Why are you anonymous Brian? We don't know who you are, do we? Same with all the rest here.

I'm thing I should require at least a real email address for anyone who posts here as many sites do. It would screen out cowards like you and the rest here.

Brian said...

Here is an article that explains to the people like Tom that despite a handful of false claims, the facts remain that hate crime is way up since Bozo became president.

This simple way of thinking is like someone who doubts cancer victims because of the few creeps who have faked it. Can you imagine that? 'Hmmm, perhaps she has cancer, but sometimes it is faked".

Brian said...

Explain to me how having an email address would change anything. Would you send me emails? What would be different?

Tom McLaughlin said...

If you posted your real name above your comments, maybe you'd start growing a pair.

I won't hold my breath.

Brian said...

...and nobody here know who anybody is. Even a registered used like "Steve" - I push his link and see no further information.

It seems you are just making a fuss to distract from having to actually discuss and debate issues.

Brian said...

Now you are doubting my real name? Really? This from somebody who just recently was the one proven to be a big liar about "your former student"?

And keep your mind off my "pair" please. Just because your "pair" are atrophied doesn't mean you should be obsessing on mine.

Anonymous said...

I confess, I feel a pang of cowardice every time I compliment your article anonymously. I feel like I`m letting the author down, not standing by his side in the fight. I know if my children were in his class or if I personally had a disagreement with Tom I would welcome a face to face to rationally discuss our differences as I have done with the Liberal teachers and administrators of today. Unfortunately unlike Tom the teachers of today do not discuss, they lecture and try to bully as though parents were one of the children they try to teach. Home Schooling has been a tremendous blessing and the children are in advanced everything but I digress. I comment anonymously to protect my family, protect my job which in turn protects my family, and because I know I will never change a Liberals mind who hates everything including him or herself. I just want the Author to know, as I`m sure he does, there are many many people just like me that enjoy and agree with his blog. God bless.

Brian said...

The last poster made very nice and thoughtful comments. I agree with much of it, such as reasons to not put full names, addresses, emails, etc. However, in my experience the vast majority of teachers I have encountered have been very helpful, have been good listeners, and have easy to work with. I am sorry you had bad experiences, but no need to try and demean a whole profession. My daughter is now at UNE after excelling in the public schools.

I post not so much to let the author know that there are many people just like me that disagree with him, but to point out the blatant BS, stereotypes and lies that I see on his blog. Bless all.

Brian F. said...

Hi there Tom,

Just read your piece in the Daily Sun and wanted to share a comment. I was a little disappointed how one-sided the piece ended after I felt like you did such a nice job illustrating what face-to-face discourse can do for people/our community/our country. I'm no fan of anonymity, particularly if someone is making bold or insensitive remarks in a public setting- but next time you may consider ending on the high note. I respect people who keep an open mind and are open to changing it and I was really glad to read your personal experiences with doing that! Thanks for sharing.


Brian F.

Joseph Kidd said...

Good to find you, sir. I have to admit when I first saw "Tommy the Commie," the following DTN excerpt immediately came to mind as I've shared it before:

[Quoting] In 1970, a young Yale law student named Hillary Rodham (who would eventually become Hillary Rodham Clinton) was introduced by one of her professors, Thomas Emerson (known as “Tommy the Commie”), to Panther defense attorney Charles Garry. Garry helped Miss Rodham get personally involved in the legal defense of several Black Panthers facing trial for the Rackley murder. [End]

I include the following to complete this picture:

Michael Moynihan brutally details the Rackley murder in the opening paragraphs here:

No word on whether Hillary laughed about that heinous crime too, as she did years later when a child rapist she was defending got off:

Tom McLaughlin said...

Hmm. Another Tommie The Commie who predated me by about eighteen years.

Thank you Joseph. I did follow up on your link Hillary's experience with the Black Panthers after your first alert. Interesting. Very interesting indeed. I even started a column, but it's still in my unfinished folder.